MANILA, Philippines – Just hours before US President Barack Obama arrived in the Philippines, the Enhanced Defense Cooperation Agreement (EDCA) was signed by Defense Secretary Voltaire Gazmin and US Ambassador to Manila Philip Goldberg. The signing, which was held at the Armed Forces of the Philippines General Headquarters at Camp Aguinaldo, was declared as Sen. Miriam Defensor-Santiago as lacking in good faith.
“This contretemps does not indicate good faith on the part of the two presidents,” Santiago said.
Santiago, who heads the Senate foreign relations committee, slammed the signing as it did not pass through the right channel. According to the senator, the upper house of Congress has equal power with the President when it comes to treaties.
“The Senate has not been given the courtesy of being furnished a copy. I feel as if I have been slapped or ordered to melt into the wallpaper,” Santiago added.
The senator also expressed her belief that the EDCA would only serve to antagonize China. She also said that she doubts that the United States would help the Philippines if and when the country is attacked by China. Santiago explained that according to the Mutual Defense Treaty, the United States will only come to aid the Philippines after it has gone through the US constitutional process and if the US Congress agrees to do so.
In the joint news conference of Obama and President Noynoy Aquino III, the US President has already addressed the speculation of the US’ role in the territorial dispute of the Philippines and China.
“Our goal is not to counter China, our goal is not to contain China. Our goal is to make sure that international rules and norms are respected, and that includes the area of maritime disputes,” Obama said.
Meanwhile, Congressman Terry Ridon of Kabataan Partylist also criticized the signed agreement. According to Ridon, the US government has yet to pay for the damages caused by the US Navy minesweeper in the Tubbataha Reef and that the agreement may cause “Tubbataha-like incidents” in the future as it would allow the increased presence of US military in the country.